Ebola spreading to more countries, warns WHO

Ebola spreading to more countries, warns WHO

The World Health Organisation on Saturday warned west Africa’s Ebola-hit nations that the epidemic was spiralling out of control and could spread to other countries, causing “catastrophic” loss of life and severe economic disruption.

WHO chief Margaret Chan told the leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia at a regional summit that the response to the epidemic had been “woefully inadequate”, and  the outbreak was “moving faster than our efforts to control it”.

The leaders were in the Guinean capital Conakry to organise the deployment of hundreds of extra medical personnel as part of $100 million emergency response to an epidemic which has claimed more than 700 lives. “If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of loss of lives,  severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spreading to other countries,” Chan said.

She described the outbreak as “by far the largest ever in the nearly a four-decade history of this disease”. “It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders and has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel, contrary to what has been seen in past outbreaks,” she told the summit.

“Cases are occurring in rural areas which are difficult to access as well as in densely populated capital cities. This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.” 

Meanwhile, west Africa’s Ebola-hit nations imposed stringent new rules to tackle the outbreak of the tropical virus ahead of a special regional summit on Saturday to launch an emergency response plan.

“It is like fighting a forest fire. If you leave behind even one burning ember — one case undetected — it could reignite the epidemic,” said Tom Frieden, the chief of the US’s top public health body. A hospital in southern US said it was preparing to receive an Ebola patient “within the next several days” for treatment in its specialised containment unit.

 Sierra Leone, which has seen 233 deaths, buried medic Umar Khan, described as a “national hero” who saved the lives of more than 100 Ebola patients before succumbing to the tropical bug.

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